It’s easier to learn to swim as a child, and many cultures introduce this life-saving skill to their children even before they can walk. Since childhood, I’ve dreamt of swimming, but a full bathtub was as close as my parents ever let me get to a swimming pool. They are not swimmers and my mom is particularly terrified of water.
Now, at 31 and free of parental restrictions, my aspiration has been rekindled, and I’m finally learning to swim. As an adult, this experience has been very frightening, exhilarating and fulfilling in so many ways and I’m just dying to share a few tips with you.
- Make a Commitment
As working adults, our favorite excuse for not getting anything done is “there’s no time”. In my many vocations, I’ve found that if we make a commitment to achieving a goal, we often do. We just have to want it enough to make it a priority.
So, what’s the reason you’d like to learn how to swim?
For weight loss?
Another skill on your resume?
Just another personal achievement?
For cute pictures on Instagram?
Whatever your reason is, commit to achieving it and take action.
- Find the Right Pool
Choosing the right pool for you, I’ll suggest you consider 4 main things;
1 Distance The nearer the pool is to your frequent locations (work or home) the more convenient it will be to go swimming. 2 Depth Next, for safety reasons, I suggest starting in a pool that’s between two to five feet deep. The chances of drowning in a shallow pool is very low. 3 Cleanliness Check the pool and surrounding area to be sure it is neat and well maintained. You don’t want to find a scorpion or snake in the water with you, or trip on a broken tile. 4 Price This is self-explanatory need I say more?
- Buy Swimming Gear
This is the fun part. Go swimwear shopping. Focus on comfort not sexiness. Learning to swim you are trying not to drown, the last thing you want is to struggle with your swimwear or hurting eyes. When you become a good swimmer you can advance to the strapless, backless, plunging neck, hand-kerchief sized swimwear (if you are comfortable being scantily clad in public).
Invest in a swimming cap and a pair of goggles. Some pools have high levels of chlorine that hurt the eyes, making them red and itchy.
For swimming gear in Abuja, check Utako Market and Area One Shopping Center or the Sports shop in Ceddi plaza.
- Go with Friends/Find a Coach
Talk to people about your interest in swimming, this way you are likely to find someone you are comfortable with who may be willing to help you achieve your goal. Trusting your coach is very important in the water. It is easier to trust someone you already know, so find a friend. Please NEVER GO IN THE WATER ALONE. Be sure there’s someone around who can help you if anything goes wrong.
- Fight the Fear
“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me danger is very real but fear is a choice. -Will Smith”
For a long time, I couldn’t let go of the ladder just so I could hurry out if i got too scared. Occasionally, I would imagine crocodiles, sharks or anacondas swimming towards me and I’d panic. But the more time I spent in the water, the easier it became to relax. I like to pray when I’m scared. “Lord, please don’t let me die today, take me to the other side of the pool” and He always has.
- Start Small and Shallow
Don’t be in a hurry to get in the deep end. Start at two feet. Get comfortable in the shallow water. Practice squatting and breathing under the water, learn a few kicks and strokes. As you get more comfortable, you will gradually advance to higher depths. It will come naturally.
- Be Patient with Yourself
Relax, getting used to weightlessness and buoyance in the water takes time. You’ll get frustrated occasionally. You’ll drink or breathe in water, you’ll choke and panic. You’ll do a lot of coughing, but don’t give up. Keep trying. If you refuse to quit you can’t fail. You’ll swim.
- Watch other Swimmers
It’s really helpful to watch other swimmers in the pool or on Youtube. Study their hands and feet movements and their overall technique. I prefer YouTube because I can play the video over and over again, making it easier to remember.
- Try New Things
Be open to new techniques; the front crawl, breast stroke, flutter of frog kicks. Try everything at least once. As you get more comfortable in the water and can actually swim you will figure out what techniques you enjoy the most.
- Set Small Goals
Set out a list of things you would like to achieve, perhaps perfect your kicks or improve your stroke, or just threading water. This creates a sense of achievement at the end of the training and helps you ensure that you are learning and making progress.
- Make it Fun
Buy toys and play water games, it makes learning easier. Get a set of diving toys. These plastic toys sink to the bottom of the pool. It’s so much fun diving to get them. The point is, it makes the process of getting comfortable in the water so much easier because you are having fun.
- Keep Track
Keep a kind of log. My sister keeps a little swimming diary to record her achievements after every day in the pool. I take pictures and make videos so I can go back to see how far I’ve come. Keeping track motivates you to do more.
- Celebrate Small Success
If nothing else, celebrate the fact that you didn’t drown. I get super excited when I achieve a new feat. My friends and I make a point of cheering each other on as we swim or achieve new milestones. We clap, cheer, and hi-five a lot!
Swimming is a great sport that can be enjoyed at any age, and a life-long skill that can be of immense importance to you and the people around you. If you’ve always wanted to swim, remember that it’s never too late to learn something new, all that’s standing in your way is you.